Everyone has their own opinion on what the most important step of your skincare routine is. But if you don’t wash your face properly with the best cleanser for your skin’s type and needs, then the rest is redundant, because the other products just won’t work properly.
Washing away the day’s grime and removing make-up is essential. Not only does it help maintain healthy skin, but by removing detritus from the skin’s surface the rest of the products will be able to penetrate the top layers and get to work. They need a clean face in order to be effective.
Mimi Luzon, skin wellbeing expert, aesthetician and facialist to Bella & Gigi Hadid, couldn’t agree more. ‘Cleansing is an integral step in your skincare routines, even more so if you wear make-up,’ she explains. ‘Cleansing dissolves away excess dirt, makeup and bacteria on your skin; not cleansing if likely to leave your pores clogged and your skin more at risk of breaking out.’
The really tricky thing is that there are thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands on the market, so finding the exact one right for you is a minefield. Luckily, we can help.
Different types of cleanser
There are so many type of cleansers – cleansing balms, micellar waters, foaming face washes – and they don’t all do the same thing. So first we should identify the different types and what they’re capable of.
1. Micellar water
What is micellar water? It’s tiny droplets of cleansing oil suspended in a water. It’s a great option for skin that’s sensitive, as it’s extremely gentle and doesn’t make your skin feel tight or dry after application. It’s also perfect for when you can’t be bothered to give your face a full-on deep cleanse. However, don’t become reliant on this as your only cleanser as you won’t be cleaning your skin completely. Simply pour some on to a cotton pad and wipe over the face to clean and cleanse.
2. Oil cleansers
Oil cleansers are really great at removing make-up, particularly stubborn mascara.
‘Cleansing oils are a favourite among many, however I don’t like to use oils or oil cleansers on acne-prone skin,’ warns Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. ‘They can be highly comedogenic, so I’d avoid it if you’re prone to breakouts and blackheads.’
3. Cleansing cloths
Elevate your standard flanneled wash cloth with one of these cotton options. A sustainable alternative to your go-to cotton pads, look for double sided options that sooth and cleanse skin.
4. Cleansing balms
These are particularly thick and luxurious cleansers that are great for dry skin in need of deep moisturising. Some can leave a slightly oily residue, so need to be rinsed thoroughly, ideally with a flannel or cloth.
‘Cleansing balms, such as Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, are great for dry skin types,’ advises Dr Mahto. ‘Once massaged into the skin, they work to dislodge any make-up, pollution or sunscreen that is left on the skin.’
Oil cleansers are very similar to cleansing balms, but come in liquid form. But they do the same job.
5. Foaming cleansers
A foaming cleanser is kind of the entry level cleanser that you get given in your early teens. They get a bad rep, because a fair few of them contain SLS (the foaming agent), which can dry skin out. However, it doesn’t affect everyone and those with an oilier skin type and prone to blemishes should get on well with the formulas. They lather up, getting into every nook and cranny.
6. Gel cleansers
If you have combination skin, then a gel is a perfect middle ground of nourishing for drier skin and slight foaming for those oilier parts. Use on damp skin and work in before rinsing.
7. Cream/milk cleansers
Cream and milk cleansers don’t foam, then tackle dirt and grime best when applied directly onto dry skin. They work well if you have dry or dehydrated skin, because they’re super nourishing but don’t strip.
Best way to cleanse skin
‘I personally like to start my day by cleansing my face with foam or any other delicate product with a suitable PH level,’ says Luzon. ‘I also recommended starting your morning routine at least twice a week with an enzymatic exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and encourage skin glow.’
‘If you are looking for a deep clean then a double-cleanse could be the answer,’ explains Dr Mahto. ‘It involves using a cleansing oil, balm or micellar water to break down make-up, SPF and sebum on the surface of your skin first, then following it with a deeper water-based cleanse. This removes sweat, bacteria and old skin cells. A second round of cleansing will clean much deeper into the pores to remove any impurities.’
The number one rule is to think about your skin concerns and to choose your skin ingredients accordingly. Salicylic acid is a great deep exfoliant for oily skin, while thicker, rich cleansers are suited to dry skins. ‘I believe less is more; there is definitely such a thing as too many active ingredients,’ says Dr Mahto. ‘Applying a large number of active ingredients onto the skin can trigger allergy, sensitivity or irritation.
If you have sensitive, skin invest in a couple of different cleansers. ‘You can use different cleansers on different part of your face,’ explains Luzon. ‘For dryer areas use a nourishing cleansing cream and oiler areas stick with foams.’
So, whether you prefer a cream cleanser, thick balm, lightweight gel or nourishing cleansing oil, there’s one out there to suit your skin’s needs (and those of your bank balance, too).
Remember to increase your treatment plan by arming yourself with the best toner, which you would use after your cleanser.